Coco Communications has spent more than a decade developing wireless networking technology to help members of the military communicate more efficiently. But now the company sees an even greater opportunity inside the connected home.
The Seattle-based startup has raised $6.1 million from existing investors to use the Wi-Fi technology it built for the military and construction sites to help improve the wireless connection between devices like security cameras, thermostats, and microwaves.
Coco Communications was originally founded in 2002 as a result of what happened during 9/11, when emergency workers had trouble communicating during rescue efforts. The company first developed mesh networking solutions for the Department of Defense, which needed help connecting people in areas that lacked proper wireless infrastructure.
Then, two years ago, it entered the commercial space via a spin-out called OpenRoute, which sold WiFi solutions to construction companies that required better connections and networks for on-site workers that often work above or below ground, and in between thick concrete.
“We create a mesh network at construction sites,” Coco Communications CEO John Stachowiak said.
But while OpenRoute is still attracting customers in construction, mining, and other public safety areas, Coco Communications is shifting its focus from the military to our homes. Stachowiak explained how his company wants to license its software to customers who buy chipsets from WiFi chipset manufacturers.
“We decided that our secret sauce could be applied to other verticals,” Stachowiak said.
The key, Stachowiak said, is how Coco Communications figured out a way to improve a wireless networking protocol called IEEE 802.11s. He noted how when launching OpenRoute, the company learned how the 802.11s standard wasn’t always routing Internet traffic in the most efficient way possible between WiFi boxes. In response, its engineers developed software to fix more than three dozen flaws in the protocol and ended up with a better product that left construction customers impressed.
Now, those who helped develop the original protocol are asking Coco Communications about their solution.
“What we’ve done should not be underestimated,” Stachowiak said.
Now Coco Communications wants WiFi hardware manufacturers to use its software inside their chipsets, which Stachowiak said can work with almost any hardware and is an improvement over standard 802.11s mesh-enabled chips. The solution would help WiFi devices around the house better connect and communicate with one another without congestion — this is key as more and more connected gadgets enter the home.
“If, down the road, we can be the standard solution, that could make us an unbelievable successful company,” he said.
Coco Communications raised the $6.1 million round from existing investors and is looking to reel in another $3.6 million. The company, which employs less than 20, has raised about $21 million to date.